The May portion of the schedule mercifully came to an end for the Phillies Monday, but only after they suffered a Memorial Day massacre at the hands of the Cincinnati Reds. Their 11-1 loss left them with a 12-16 record for the month and it also pushed them to a season-high five games out of first place after the New York Mets won in Arizona.
It’s actually worse than that because they trail the Mets by nine games in the loss column.
There’s four months of baseball remaining, but manager Joe Girardi is not buying that it’s still early because one-third of the season is already behind us.
“It’s not [early],” Girardi said. “It’s not. We need to turn it around. I know we’re missing some guys, but other teams are missing guys, too. We just need to play better. We need to do all three facets of the game better. We are putting ourselves in a tough spot.”
Believe it or not, the Phillies actually hit slightly better in May than they did in April. They batted .234 with a .309 on-base percentage and a .683 OPS while averaging 4 runs per game in May after hitting .232 with a .306 on-base percentage and a .678 OPS and averaging 3.7 runs per game in April.
The team ERA, on the other hand, went up slightly from 4.28 in April to 4.39 in May.
They have actually been pretty consistent, but not in a good way.
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Will things improve for the Phillies in June?
If you weren’t happy about the way the Phillies played in April or May, we regret to inform you that they have not had a winning June since 2011, the last year they qualified for the postseason. The Phillies, in fact, are a whopping 53 games under .500 (84-137) in June since 2012.
Last year, of course, there was no April, May or June.
First baseman Rhys Hoskins stressed that there is “a lot of baseball left” and that “when the summer months come and we get some guys back and get some guys feeling more like themselves we’re going to score some runs.”
There’s still some uncertainty about when that will be, however. Catcher J.T. Realmuto has returned, but Bryce Harper (wrist/forearm), out since May 22, is not expected back Wednesday even though he will be eligible to come off the injured list. Shortstop Didi Gregorius (swollen right elbow) has been sidelined since May 12 and he has not even started swinging the bat yet as part of his rehab process.
“We just have to weather the storm right now,” Hoskins said. “We have a lot of guys that are working really hard and still preparing day in and day out, so I think if we continue on that and try to work as hard as we can, something is going to happen. Some big moment is going to happen. It’s kind of going to click because that’s kind of how it usually goes. Frustrated for sure, but we’re still working our butts off. It’s going to change.”
Perhaps, but this month’s schedule is a difficult one. After playing two more games in Cincinnati, the Phillies begin an eight-game home stand Friday against Washington, Atlanta and the New York Yankees before making their first West Coast trip of the season where they will play the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants. Since 2015, the Phillies are 8-26 on the road against those two teams, so that’s not typically the places they go to get well.
The Phillies also have to play four games against the Mets at Citi Field this month.
To Hoskins’ credit, he has done as much as he can to keep the team afloat during these turbulent times. He started all 28 games in May and batted .302 with a .398 on-base percentage while contributing five doubles, three home runs and 17 RBIs.
“I’m really proud of Rhys and how he has stepped up for this club,” Girardi said. “Him and Jean [Segura], both of them. Rhys is using the whole field extremely well and his numbers climbed. He has had big hits for us, he has had big home runs for us and he has been in the lineup every day. Those two guys have really stepped up and Rhys has grinded it out. God knows where we’d be without him.”
It is good news for the Phillies that Hoskins’ best month during his career has typically been June. That’s also true for Andrew McCutchen and Aaron Nola, who is pitching Tuesday night’s game against the Reds.
“We’re kind of facing those low-lows right now and we have to find a way to kind of pick each other up and weather the storm,” Hoskins said.
If they do not turn things around in June, it will likely be another long, frustrating summer for the Phillies.
The metrics and the eye test tell us that the Phillies have the worst defense in baseball and Scott Lauber, with an assist from former general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., explains why that is a really difficult problem to fix.
Bryce Harper is eligible to come off the injured list Wednesday, but Girardi said Monday that “I wouldn’t count on it.”
Before being pounded by the Reds on Memorial Day, the Phillies were swept by the Rays in Tampa Bay. That left them with a 6-16 record the last two seasons against the two teams from Florida, both of which have bottom five payrolls. That can’t sit well with managing partner John Middleton.
Tonight: Aaron Nola takes on Cincinnati’s Sonny Gray, 7:10 p.m.
Tomorrow: Spencer Howard goes against Reds’ Vladimir Guitierez in series finale, 12:35 p.m.
Friday: Zack Wheeler faces Washington at Citizens Bank Park, 7:05 p.m.
Saturday: Zach Eflin faces the Nats, 4:05 p.m.
Sunday: Vince Velasquez pitches series finale vs. Nationals, 1:05 p.m.
Stat of the day
Much was made about the abysmal state of the Phillies’ bullpen a year ago when the team posted a 7.06 ERA, the second highest in baseball history. This year’s bullpen had to be better than that and it has been, but not nearly better enough. After 54 games, the Phillies’ bullpen ERA is 4.78, which ranked 25th in baseball and last in the National League East. The Phillies’ 11 blown saves are tied for the third most in baseball. Bad bullpens typically lead to bad seasons. The eight teams with the highest relief ERAs right now all have losing records. The Phillies’ bullpen had a 5.13 ERA in May.
From the mailbag
Send questions by email or on Twitter @brookob.
Question: Well, the season is nearly a third of the way through, and Alec Bohm doesn’t seem able to snap out of his funk. Any chance the Phils are considering sending him to Allentown so he can get back on track? Keep up the good work with Extra Innings!
Don from AZ, via email
Answer: Don, thanks for the kind words about the newsletter and hope you’re keeping cool in Arizona. Based on what Joe Girardi said after Sunday’s game against Tampa Bay, I don’t think the Phillies’ plan is to send Bohm to Lehigh Valley. I don’t think it should be either. I think he is talented enough and strong-minded enough to fight his way through his current slump both in the field and at the plate. His biggest problem to me right now is that he is hitting the ball on the ground too much. He is a guy who needs to hit line drives into the gaps because those will eventually become long balls. I actually really liked Girardi’s comment about watching Hall of Famers have bad halves and that nobody feels sorry for you in baseball. Part of proving you are a good player entails fighting through the worst of times.